Church buildings take on many different shapes and styles. Some are magnificent pieces of architecture with carved stone walls, towers, and flying buttresses. Others are classic prairie with white siding and a tall steeple. Some are modern metal buildings while others are brick and mortar. Some church buildings are simply storefronts or any variety of leased property. And some are buildings that have other primary purposes like a school or a community center. I’ve even been in barn or two that have been used for a church. The point, of course, is not the outside appearance but what happens on the inside.
Our next two facets of who we are in Christ considers us to be the dwelling place of God. The Bible sees this in two different lights, one will be covered in this article and the other in the next. Some verses, which we’ll consider for a moment, sees each individual follower of Jesus as a place where God dwells. Other verses indicate that God’s dwelling place is being constructed with walls of “living stones” as we join with other followers of Jesus.
Things changed after Jesus’ resurrection. Previously, God met His people at a particular place with strict rules as to who, when, and how someone could enter into the most holy place. It was as if God could only live in one location and people went to meet Him there. But Jesus changed all of that. In our text from the last article on vines and branches Jesus repeatedly called for His followers to abide in Him and for Himself and His Word to abide in us. (see John 15) Paul observes, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16–17, NASB95) God no longer dwells in buildings made of stone, brick, wood, or fabric, but He makes His dwelling in human hearts.
Let’s consider what it means for God to dwell in our hearts and lives. A few days ago we were invited to a Christmas party with some new friends. We entered their home, sat at their table, shared some food, and even had a few laughs. But even though I was under their roof I wasn’t living there. It was not my home, just a place to be. And as a guest, there were certain unspoken but expected behaviors. Like not poking around inside of cupboards or exploring the house without an invitation. There have also been times when we’ve had someone stay over at our house, often with the encouragement to “make yourself at home.” But that is still not the same as living there.
Living there entails a certain degree of ownership. I can put things anywhere I want (much to my wife’s chagrin), rearrange the furniture and decorate the walls. Party guests and house guests don’t get to repaint the walls or change the pictures, but the owner of the house does have that privilege. God doesn’t desire to show up every now and again as a party guest. Neither does He desire to be a temporary live-in. In reality, God is now the owner of the house. Paul put it this way, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NASB95) Having chosen to follow Jesus, to ask Him into our heart and life means that God owns the house and He lives there with us.
God Spirit is always with us. If we run into trouble or have a bad day, we don’t need to go to a particular place to meet Him. We don’t need to wait until next Sunday or the next small group meeting to express our cares and concerns. That also means that our choices should be guided by His presence. That was Paul’s point to the Corinthians, God is with you now so you don’t get to do anything you want. Instead, Paul encouraged them to honor God in their thoughts, words, and deeds. In the late seventies and early eighties, we used the term “sold out” to express this idea of belonging to God. Essentially saying that everything in our lives belongs to God. Or as Paul put it, “we have been bought with a price.”
This facet of the diamond of who we are in Jesus reminds us that God is with us. Perhaps there is a little bit of green and red twinkle in this facet since that is the message of Christmas; our God is with us – Emmanuel. There are also two reminders from this side of the diamond. Since God is with us, we can pray and seek Him anywhere, anytime, for any reason. And since God is with us our choices should be guided by His presence. Lastly, there is this encouragement. Take a moment to consider the way God is with you. Have you invited Him in as a party guest? Or like a house guest to whom we say “make yourself at home” but we hope that they don’t carry that too far? Or are we sold out to Jesus, recognizing that we are no longer our own, we have been bought with a price. The house, our life, now belongs to Him.